Welsh made Budweiser seems like a joke, but it’s a reality that may be on the forefront of technological advancement. Wales is about to get the U.K.’s first hydrogen-powered brewery, courtesy of Budweiser.

     The Budweiser Brewing Group announced that the £100 million hydrogen project would fuel production, heavy goods vehicles and trucks at its Magor brewery in Monmouthshire.

     The project, which is expected to be up and running by 2024, would see the first large-scale hydrogen generation system built at a brewery. Budweiser claims that using hydrogen technology will allow the plant to use zero-carbon power, and fuel for all its operations, in a bid to become carbon neutral: The firm already powers its Welsh made Budweiser operations in Magor with 100% renewable electricity from solar farms and an on-site wind turbine.

     Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of the Budweiser, U.K. operations, will be working with U.K.-based hydrogen energy firm Protium, to deliver the plans.

     It all sounds wonderful. However, there’s a problem that must be overcome, if the potential effect of this technology on climate control is to be realized. Currently, the production of hydrogen is messy, small and creates a great deal of pollution. It is made almost entirely by burning fossil fuels mixed with air and steam. The process uses up approximately 6% of the world’s natural gas, 2% of its coal, and emits more than 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Hardly environmentally friendly!

     I would hasten to add that this is not Budweiser’s problem. Their initiative is definitely innovative, and will contribute positively to the war on climate change. However, the hydrogen production system must change first.

     Currently, the hydrogen industry produces around 90 million tonnes a year, which is used to process oil in refineries, to produce methanol for use in plastics and, most importantly, used in the production of ammonia for the artificial fertilizers of the world.

     The production of ammonia not only creates massive pollution, it is used in industries that are also major polluters. That also doesn’t sound like a recipe for a positive contribution to climate change modification.

     Fortunately, there is a much simpler, if currently more expensive, way of producing hydrogen that reduces carbon dioxide emissions to zero. Electricity generated from renewable sources could be used to tear water molecules apart, thus liberating its constituent elements of hydrogen and oxygen.

     Projections based on talked-about governments’ “green” commitments, would indicate a possible five-fold increase in the need for hydrogen. That is certainly an economic incentive for seeking new ways of producing it. As the European Union’s hydrogen strategy puts it, “From 2030 onwards and towards 2050, renewable hydrogen technologies should reach maturity, and be deployed at a large scale to reach all hard-to-decarbonize sectors.”

     The trick will be for governments to sink sufficient funds into hydrogen production technology that it becomes more financially viable as a source of power. That, in turn, requires vision and commitment, which tend to be scarce commodities in government decisions and policies.

     Congratulations, Budweiser, on having this vision and commitment. Now all you have to do is cajole/coerce/bribe if necessary your governments, and others, into following suit. Not your job, maybe, but you’ve put yourself on the front-line with your Welsh brewery, so go for it. We all promise to drink more Budweiser in support. Welsh made Budweiser is certainly not a joke.

  

    

    

    

   

   

    

    

    

    

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